Like many ordained Baptist pastors, I recently guided my congregation during the seasons of Lent and Easter with spiritual disciplines, preaching, worship and baptism. This week I shout hallelujah with my body. I dance.
April 29 is celebrated as International Day of Dance. “Baptists don’t dance,” the old stereotype goes, but as also a professional dancer I want to debunk this notion.
Dance has been a vital part of our history. We read of dance as a form of worship more than 27 times in the Hebrew Bible. Miriam, David, Jephthah’s daughter, the Shulamite, Judith and Salome all danced in the grip of God’s joy.
There are 10 Hebrew verb forms for dance found in the Bible. The words we translate “worship” or “praise” literally mean to “prostrate, bow down” [shachah], “confess with outstretched hands” [yadah], or “kneel” [barak].
In the New Testament, dance is continually prevalent. The Greek word we translate as “exceedingly glad or joyful” [agaillo] literally means “with much leaping.” Dance and joy, therefore, were synonymous. Worshippers were literally jumping for joy.
As the church continued to grow, church “fathers” advocated dance as means for worship:
Angela Yarber is pastor for preaching and worship at Wake Forest Baptist Church at Wake Forest University. She has a PhD in art and religion from UC Berkeley.
2 thoughts on “Embodied Hallelujahs – An Invitation to Dance”
Dance, dance wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the dance said He
I reach you all wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance said He.
Imi amintesc o calugarita tinara din India care imi explica in urma cu citiva ani ca in Idia ea comunica Evanghelia adesea prin dans pentru ca face parte din cultura lor.